According to the Associated Press, the participants in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing will be under scrutiny based not only on their athletic performance, but on a plethora of other indicators, i.e. showing any kind of support for the Dalai Lama or Tibetan freedom/rights.
The International Olympic Committe (IOC) Rule 51 states "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
And according to the AP, a letter by the IOC expanded on the rule to include appearance, actions or gestures.
However, back on April 24th, the Athletes Commission banded together and issued a statement, which you can find on the Olympic Movement's website. It specifically stated in this release: "Athletes have a right to express themselves, and plenty of opportunity to do so ahead of and during the Games. "
The mandate issued by the IOC today is in direct contradiction to the April 24th statement.
The Olympic games center around athletic performance and a long-standing tradition. However, should political oppression and civil freedoms take a holiday during the Olympics? And to be realistic, the Olympics are not immune to political influence and have in fact been used in order to take a stand against oppression in the past. [reference 1980s, Cold War, Olympic boycotts]
The athletes that make it to the Olympics are supposedly fulfilling a lifelong dream, but is the only thing that matters that they get to showcase their talent in the sports arena? Do they not have a right to express their political, religious, and philosophical beliefs? Dissension from the happy-go-lucky, neutral facade of the Olympic Games is obviously being frowned upon by the Committee. It leaves a question in my mind though: how can countries who pride themselves on "making the world a safer place for democracy" take part in an event in which the expression of dissent is frowned upon? Isn't the right to express oneself and one's beliefs - be they political, religious, or otherwise - one of the cornerstones of democracy?